Congress will be taking a closer look this week at the future of a federal program that helps hospitals purchase drugs at discounted rates.
Legislators are concerned about the growth in the 340B drug pricing program and wonder if it's receiving appropriate oversight from HHS. The program was meant to be utilized only by hospitals serving a large number of low-income individuals. However, there have been reports that hospitals with more affluent patients have been utilizing it as well. The U.S. Government Accountability Office also has found that drug spending was higher at hospitals that participate in the program versus those that do not.
For example, 340B hospitals' average spending per beneficiary was $144 in 2012, compared to approximately $60 at non-340B hospitals, according to the GAO.
Overreliance or abuse of the program may be a reason that sales of drugs under 340B reached $16.2 billion last year, a 34% jump from 2015 and accounting for 5% of the total U.S. drug market, according to an analysis by Pembroke Consulting.
To get to the bottom of things, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will host a hearing Tuesday to determine how oversight of the program can be strengthened. Officials from HHS, its Inspector General Office and the GAO will be witnesses.
"As the program continues to expand, our first priority must be to examine how this program is impacting patients, providers, manufacturers and other stakeholders, and ensure that we are protecting program integrity," Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration appears to be backing off of an executive order that would scale back the program.